Degree Year


Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Committee Member(s)

Amanda Zadorian
Joshua Freedman


Iraq, Politics, Iraq War, George W. Bush, Foreign policy, United States, Moral panic, American exceptionalism, War on Terror, State of exception, Neoconservatism, Security


This thesis seeks to understand the conditions in the United States post-9/11 that enabled the Bush administration to pursue a wide-ranging and all-encompassing “War on Terror,” with substantial support from the general public. I am principally focused on two significant facets of the War on Terror: the invasion of Iraq and the establishment of a permanent security state (and the interrelated creation of a new state of exception). I ask why the George W. Bush administration was so successful in generating support for both the invasion and occupation of Iraq, and for policies that violated fundamental civil liberties; I argue that the Bush administration, with substantial collaboration from mainstream mass media, was able to effectively instigate a moral panic as a result of the pre-existing widespread belief in American exceptionalism, as well as the prevalence of deeply rooted colonialist ideology, among the general public. Relatedly, I assert that the post-9/11 moment, including both the cultural reaction to the attacks and post-9/11 foreign policy, cannot be understood without first examining the significant political and cultural shifts that took place during and after the Cold War, among both the general public and among political elites. I then argue that this moral panic, which was actively cultivated by the Bush administration and many fixtures in the media, enabled Bush to implement policies and practices that violated domestic and/or international law with minimal backlash from the American public, and in many cases, even received enthusiastic support. These policies and practices established, and then further entrenched, a permanent state of exception centered principally around “homeland security.”